Sometimes I marvel at the amount of football that gets played. League, Cups, internationals. It’s a lot of running around. Which is a big reason Bruce made six changes at the weekend. He got away with it, by his own admission. Which is a credit to the players who, like Bjarnason, are going to want to stake a claim (even if he shouldn’t really have to).

The League Cup, on the other hand, poses another familiar test for Villa of late—that of focusing on the league at the expense of all other distractions. While a cup run is always nice, and can be fun for the fans as it represents the chance to win something, the League Cup, certainly, has to be approached as a developmental sideshow utilizing a mix of the U23s and a couple veterans. Not just because it’s the first round, but because Villa need them to be developing, and if they book a ticket to the next round, so much the better. Rinse, wash, repeat. Nothing new there.

Once we’re back to mid-table in the Premier League, Villa can start taking cups seriously again, but not before. Unless of course we find the youngsters carrying us to an advanced stage. We saw the likes of Doyle-Hayes and Callum O’Hare held out of action, presumably to play a role tonight. We’re reading about six changes again. Wouldn’t hurt RHM to get a longer run-out, for example.

So, will be good to have a look, would be nice to win, and would be even better to see a couple players make a case for themselves. The glut of midfielders might make it hard for Doyle-Hayes or O’Hare to get a look in on regular first-team action, but they’re the kind of fresh legs we ought to be able to slot in during the season. Likewise Bree and perhaps De Laet after his two-game layoff (not that Bruce would’ve picked him anyway).

If we’re going to rotate, better we should be doing it by staying young and fast, and there really should be some sort of plan to it. Switching Whelan and Jedinak back and forth in the DM role is sort of pointless, for example. Neither should start there, with the horses-for-courses exception of Jedi when we’re playing big, hold-up/set-piece sides. Every starter should have a back-up who knows his role and can come in rather seamlessly. As far as our new keepers go, dunno if Nyland will get another go to steady his nerves, or if Moreira will notch his first appearance. I’m guessing the latter, to keep him interested.

Anyway, I’d offer more prescriptions, but in the end we know what it is, and of course more attention is being paid to potential loan deals.

Oh, and I have no idea how it took so long, but the idea Villa are looking for ways to offload McCormack and Richards…what a breath of fresh air. Edens will not be one to easily stomach guaranteed four-year contracts. Those are very rare in North America. Players just get cut when they don’t, and they receive whatever portion of their contract was guaranteed. Not saying he can upend the status quo in football. But I’m pretty certain that, going forward, there will at the very least be nothing more than a one- or two-year deal for virtually any player 30 and above. And injury history will be taken very seriously.

Over to you.

Comments 52

  1. Well, that was a bit underwhelming, but a win’s a win. Didn’t like that we couldn’t win with a fairly strong starting lineup, but that’s a cup tie for you, I guess.

  2. I didn’t see the game but read the commentary. With the number of fouls happening I don’t think anything close to a fluid game showed up. Who went to the game?

  3. Not me I’m afraid Ian. But two thousand Villa fans did make the trip. And therein lies the rub. Villa make so many changes and put out a team that hasn’t played together. Result is a poor performance and the fans are short changed. Happy to win, but we were quite lucky.

    Thought Hourihane was having a stinker and then he pops up with the winner! In my view Tuanzebe looked the best of the bunch playing as a CB. Moreira was all points between the sublime and ridiculous.

  4. plug
    what do we do in training,usually when players come into a team they fit in to a system, i knew it,that is whats wrong nearly 100 games in bruce or players or fans alike have not got a clue what is going on out on pitch
    seen a clip of brian little near the end would love to know what he makes of bruce change after change side or what he tells the owners

  5. For me, I’d have A and B teams. They play against each other in all full-team drills, play together in all pattern drills, etc. The B team is composed of the second-choice player at each position. You get two cohesive squads. The B team can also be used to mimic the tactics and style of opponents (as much as possible, given the kinds of players you have). The most promising youngsters have to be included in this to make up the numbers, including three who sub in.

    Obviously each player could move to A or B. But to do this, you have to have selected an A team. When you have a full week, you play at least one, more likely two 45-minute games each week.

    I could be crazy, I’m no sports scientist, but I was trained that way. And the rule was two-touch. One to control, one to pass. I’m sure things are more advanced and scientific these days, but we look like we could use some time doing something like this. If we are and it’s still not gelling, then there’s got to be a better way.

    I don’t know to what extent this thinking still holds true, but I’d read a few years ago that the best way to train is to spend the most time doing what you do in a match.

  6. Plug,

    Funny, Bjarnason wasn’t having his best game either on Saturday.

    Not so bothered about making changes, but there has to be an organizing principle to the changes. And I’m not sure I see that. Was more like, “give Grealish, Chester, Kodjia, Hutton, Elmo, and Jedi a rest, put in the guys who didn’t play at weekend, throw a couple kids in.”

    Which, I understand players need minutes, and maybe that is shaping up to be the second team.

  7. JC, what struck me last night was that we were back to keep ball along the back line sideways, sideways again and again and if pressed by the opposition, back to the keeper to hoof and lose possession. Fine if you are edging a tight game with 5 minutes left but not all game. It’s not entertainment and if that’s the best that current day coaches can come up with, grounds will slowly empty. Far too often last night the players were automatically looking to go backwards.

    The best teams do 1 touch rather than 2. Thinking time happens as the ball is coming to a player and the pass is shipped on immediately forwards because there is always plenty of movement. Not the case with lesser teams.

  8. Pretty much agree with what’s been said , poor game we maybe should of lost and plenty of square pegs and lack of cohesion, it’s understandable when you think Bruce has switched systems after playing previously with 3 at the back most of pre-season. There’s no system to my mind, what you need is players that can slot in and know what they are doing, we don’t. Also there appears not plan in the final third or real service to the single forward, hoofing the ball at rhm against two giants wtf.

    Glad we won though as it will be the only games our youngsters get on the whole I suspect.

  9. Agree with much that has been said, except this time. I have sympathy with Bruce. He was absolutely livid last night with the effort of his team, and I have to agree. The number of basic mistakes, slipshod passing, and lack of energy from some beggared belief.

    I was very disappointed with De Laet, Doyle-Hayes, Taylor, Whelan and Adomah. The keeper was a nightmare, but seemed to have a charmed life, and connect with the ball when he needed to, including the penalty. I am sure he will improve as he gets used to playing in a Villa team. For me RHM, Tuanzebe and Green did ok, but the real business was conducted when Jack came on, and we managed to scrape a goal from his wonderful pas to Kodija, and Hourihane managed the tap in, the best thing he did all game. He was very poor, and should not be playing so poorly that he collects a yellow. Shame Lansbury could not play last night due to the birth of his baby daughter.

    I really thought that Doyle-Hayes would put in an outstanding performance, but maybe it was a bit too much with his senior side full debut, and it shows the reason that Bruce is not keen to blood these youngsters before the side is really flowing, and he can afford to take the risk.

    I am sure that this season he will plan, for the first time, just how he can blend and rotate the squad, without losing cohesion, and ensure that the energy and mentality going forward will continue to win games.

  10. On a happier note, it was nice to know this is the best start made by Villa winning their first three games since 1963, under Joe Mercer, who was one of my favourite managers with his Mercer’s Minors, and when I started watching Villa on a regular basis, catching the old Villa Park Specials from the Yew Tree, Yardley.

    Perhaps this will be the start of Bruce’s Braves, led by Jack.

  11. PP – yes you could hear Bruce but we did look similar to recent games just a bunch of players that don’t play together. I was disappointed in Doyle Hayes but we don’t play as the u23’s do so he was continually passing sideways with no runners on show. Wheelan and hourihane his midfield partners were tripe so not really a great platform for a player all about picking out the pass. Didn’t think Delaet was that bad especially going forward.

    Bruce was shouting move but if they don’t know where to then you get last nights mess. Watch Leeds if you can they are superbly drilled.

  12. Agree we have no distinct style or purpose.

    Bruce has been here long enough to put his identity on the team.

    Still think the youth need sending out on loan though to sharpen up. The reserve or u23 is just not enough.

    Green who ive never really saw much in looked promising in patches so id keep him on the bench and start him occasionaly but murphy, o hare, and the rest need constant proper football imo.

  13. PP,

    You’re right, Bruce was definitely not happy with the application, and Green’s postgame tweet indicated that they were disappointed in themselves, as well.

    Besides those players getting the rare chance to prove themselves, I just don’t think any of them relish a Tuesday cup tie against an upstart with nothing to lose in a competition we stand little chance of winning. Doesn’t excuse a lack of effort, but they’d rather be starting in league games and saving themselves for those.

  14. Plug,

    Yes, the best teams can play a lot of one-touch. We were young and not quite as talented throughout 😉

    As everyone points out, the key to that is knowing where other players are going to be and what everyone is trying to do.

  15. MK,

    De Laet did look ok going forward on the odd occasion, but he had several passes go astray, and put the ball into touch when he meant it to go forward, and maybe it was part of the problem for the team, playing on a much smaller pitch.

    I have watched Leeds and sang their praises in earlier tweets. They are going to be a very hard team to overcome, and get in front of, which we must do.

    In the last two games for me, Hepburn-Murphy has shown his quality, and to be alone up front last night against two big centre backs, he did more than well, but had very little support, especially with Whelan playing so deep, and Doyle-Hayes not producing the balls for him.

    Back in the late 80’s we would always spend time training our youngsters in West Wales to use one touch football, and worked well. My son, who has just turned 41, is still playing in OZ, and is his team’s leading scorer, followed by his 18yr old son..!!

  16. Bruce might have been housing move at wheelan in case he’d nodded off or passed away though 🙂

    Of all the players I’ve seen at u23 level ohare looks the most ready and is injured rhm just needs the ball with him facing goal more often or the opposing players or he’ll just get kicked and injured.

  17. Well I didn’t see the entire game but the gods let me see the highlights. And they were few and far between. But one thing I noticed was the new keeper. Yeah, he did have some problems but maybe his defence weren’t used to him and this made for some hesitation. I did notice that he was willing to look after his box and made a charge out to challenge an opposing player. Once everyone sorts themselves out with his style perhaps things will improve. The few things I saw, I liked. He was willing to take a few lumps and put the opposition on notice that it isn’t going to be a cakewalk around the net and they will be walking away with some bruising

  18. Ian- I quite liked the keeper too bar the hiccups, he’s a big lad and gets down well, the block on the line by tuaenzabe he had his glove behind, impressive for a big fella and saved the Pen.

    What Grealish’s introduction indicated was we had nobody in midfield to drive us forward. I would of liked RHM to have stayed on with Kodjia as a front pair too.

  19. Ahh, a bit of music.
    I like the stuff I grew up with. NY, Stones, Kinks, etc but as time moves on my tastes have shifted to a more bluesy note. Blue grass in particular and roots. Here are some of the artists I listen to ATM
    Amanda Stiles
    Hayes Caril
    Lucinda Williams
    Deep Dark Woods

    If you like a more country tune try Corb Lund

  20. I watched the whole game and also watched the Leeds game at the weekend; I agree Paul that Beilsa has them on track if they can maintain the momentum throughout the season.
    I was amazed that Bruce reckoned the keeper had a good game – some crazy erratic decisions, however having played in that position myself I think some of them were a result of his lack of confidence in what was happening in front of him.
    Funnily enough I saw highlights of Yeovil’s game on Saturday and wondered if their long throw would cause us problems. As the teams came out and I saw the height of some of their players I was sure it would be a worry – in fact they only tried it right at the end.
    I just watched the highlights of all the first round Carabao on Quest and there were quite a few sides trying out débutantes and youngsters so there was not a lot to take home as far as form was concerned.
    Second round draw tonight in front of the Sunderland – Sheffield Wednesday tie.

  21. continuing to see poor defending, we were lucky on the foul that led to their goal being ruled out. Lot of comments about Tuanzebe having a good game, Bruce needs to nail Chester and him down for CBs. Maybe missing Terry’s experience in the back a little.

  22. Villalore- we have missed a dominant player in the air since we sold baker and he wasn’t great. What we do well is block shots what we do badly is defend the six yard box imo . It’s why he keeps plugging away with jedinak who might be ok given time to adjust. I’m quite amazed we haven’t gone all out to get a can in the mould of flint now at bro

  23. Spud was pretty livid after the Yeovil tie. Is he feeling the heat from his employers? But the game I watched went as I expected given the amount of changes and U23’s thrown in. Introducing one at a time to play with the seniors will always give a better indication of whether an U23 is good enough.

  24. The Tractor Boys up next. We well and truly ploughed them 4 months ago at their place. However, they did have a man sent off just before half time. So this time I’ll settle for any kind of win. Not a draw mind, that would be 2 points dropped.

  25. Plug they look poor this season without mad Mick so if we get the three points Bruce will reach god status to some, Brentford midweek that’s gonna be an interesting game. Win that and we might be better than I’m presently seeing .

  26. The Yeovil game was truly shocking. I was annoyed by the reaction of Bruce after the game demanding more players to address our playing problems. He has been at Villa for 2 years now and our style of play is terrible. We have now style of play. We need a decent coach who can create a style play that excites the fans. Safety first football has gone. Bruce needs to move with the toms; he is s dinosour.

  27. Mark, – “we have missed a dominant player in the air since we sold baker and he wasn’t great”
    I actually thought that Baker ‘was’ good in the air, and he was totally fearless (daft) with it!. . . . I for one, loved him for that part of his game.
    I reckon you’re right about him playing Jedinack there to give us that aerial protection .
    I’ve not been so much worried about our lack of height at the back, it’s lack of awareness and cohesion that has bothered me more.
    As someone else said, It’d be great if Tuanzebe and Chester could now form a consistent partnership in central defence and then hopefully we could start to a feel a bit more confident. Hopefully some of that new found confidence would also start seeping backwards into one of our new keepers too!

  28. Where I miss a tall player more, is upfront.
    We have players now that can deliver wonderful crosses but I’m not sure who the natural header of the ball is supposed to be.
    Even if that’s not the style of play we’re looking for it’d be a handy asset to bring on when we need a goal with 15 minutes to play.

  29. Mark that link about Steve Bruce is an interesting one, and if you read the well written comments too, I think you get a good overall balance and spread of Villa fan opinions right now.

  30. Robbo- Hello , I meant he wasn’t the greatest CB overall, his heading ability and bravery top class. I think most of our problems come from defending set pieces and crosses, blocking shots we can do, a dominant keeper may be a partial answer to the aerial threat, lets hope the two we have got now turn out to be that. They certainly don’t look any better than Steer so far really maybe a bit taller thats it, and the Spanish lad looks physical.

    The lack of cohesion is a team wide thing, we appear to be 11 individuals at times imo.

  31. There was a telling moment in Steve Bruce’s post Yeovil interview when he said something along the lines of the game showing that the young players aren’t yet ready for the step up.
    I thought it was unfair in the case of Hepburn Murphy as he showed plenty of willing, but was receiving very little useful service when playing right up against two comparative giants in central defence.
    At first I thought it was a comment aimed at the fans who keep pressing for more of the youth, but if it was aimed at anyone, then it would probably have been the owners and trying to encourage them to support him in the loan marketplace.
    Deeper than that though, it suggests that his remit is still to get us promoted this year, rather than take time to build up a homegrown youthful side.
    For sure he’ll use youth more, as already evidenced this year to some degree, but he’s all out for getting promotion and he will show limited compromise against that objective.

  32. Robbo- would not surprise me if he put that side together to prove a point either, it will depend on the owners own thoughts. I think they are not so much demanding youth players start, more that we don’t accumulate Over the hill players any more and that is to be applauded.

    Bruce is not coach of players, wish he was but he will buy/loan until he feels its right Rather than improve what he has available, he hasn’t got that ability imo other than the obvious build them up approach. Seems to me he acquires players that do what he wants without much instruction, or discards them. When Tuanzebe is promised time on the pitch to improve and Bree is ignored what else can you conclude?

    As for promotion? it looks that way or at least it does from Bruces perspective, especially if he’s feeling the pressure, he wants to prove something I think.

    Oh well I think Kodjia will score two this weekend and the show will roll on.

  33. ROBBo, good points, very perceptive. I too wondered the same thing and came to much the same conclusion. Why was he angry afterwards? His team selection was always going to produce what it did so there must have been something else eating away at him.

    MK, with you on your points too. If Codger gets 2 I’ll be delighted.

  34. r0bb0, MK…

    Good points. I think holding on to Grealish made clear that promotion was the goal. Funnily enough, though, I was a bit surprised at the number of veterans in the squad against Yeovil. And then bringing Jack and Kodjia on to push for the win. The win seemed rather important to Bruce. Which is fine, winning’s always good.

    The message(s)? Does seem, reading your take, r0bb0, that it was intended for both the fans and NSWE. Likewise, the reference to bringing in McGinn because we wanted to get younger. Appears to be saying, “young is fine, but don’t count on the youth coming out of the Academy to get us up.”

    Which may be a fair enough point. I think you have to have either more of them playing together, since they know each other, or slot them in carefully.

    Sort of makes me question the whole development set-up. Not in a good/bad way, just curious as to what could be done differently to have them actually ready to play. We see some very young teams that do alright.

    Anyway, I’m rambling now.

  35. Just been catching up on Spud’s presser. He says he’s 4 or 5 players short. Blimey. Mourinho once said he hates large squads. Seems Spud is just the opposite, can’t get enough players.

    As Ipswich have been rebuilding from the lower leagues including their manager, here’s hoping we catch them before they get into any form of shape or system.

  36. I think part of the problem with Bruce, is he discards so many of his squad from early on. Already he has shipped out Gardener, Steer and Sarkic. He is not overly keen on Lansbury, De Laet and Hogan, while he has completely bombed out Tishbola, Richards and McCormack, leaving him with a squad of around 19 players who he is willing to consider, plus a few of the under 23 squad, and so yes, to compete in two cup competitions and the league, he is struggling for players.

    He is going to be looking for a Grabban, an Onomah and a couple more at least.

    Let us hope now that the team on Saturday will be close to his future 1st team.

  37. Plug- I just watched it and was surprised to hear its doom and gloom at Villa park still? I’m overjoyed now to be honest with some real owners 🙂 Really surprised at the 4-5 player comment as he said that before we got our recent signings in.

    I wonder if him and Hogan have had a spat? he referred to Axel, keinan ,Mitch and John Kodjia by the first name and Hogan? he called him Hogan, might be reading into it but sounded weird, not even a Hoags 🙂

    The stuff about Axel getting better with games? well so would any of our youth or players. The comment about the youth and rude awakening made me laugh as the same players played in the cups last season and looked much better but got no 1st time because of it worth calling, can’t see that changing unless your from manure or a prem side that stipulates they have to play x amount of games.

    suliman has gone to holland, clarke has gone out on loan too can’t find out where to. Ohare is playing tomorrow night against Manure u23’s so thats a bonus

    Did you listen to the end where he discusses Davis’s injury to his pubic Bone? tickled me.

  38. PP- He just does not develop players, when he came the watch word was all about player turnover and how it doesn’t help or we have had to many players coming and going, well I hate to think how many we have had arrive since he came in.

  39. Mark
    Mitchell has gone on a years loan to Port Vale.
    Some good, intelligent & relevant comments on here, & very civilised, so I’d better be quiet.

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